Capacity Building is Building the Capacity to Grow
by Sunny Lewis for Maximpact
WASHINGTON, DC, January 7, 2020 (Maximpact.com News) – “Frequently invisible, and often overlooked, capacity building is the all-important ‘infrastructure’ that supports and shapes charitable nonprofits into forces for good,” declares the National Council of Nonprofits based in Washington, DC, the largest existing U.S. network of nonprofit organizations.
“Capacity building is whatever is needed to bring a nonprofit to the next level of operational, programmatic, financial, or organizational maturity, so it may more effectively and efficiently advance its mission into the future,” explains the National Council of Nonprofits. “Capacity building is not a one-time effort to improve short-term effectiveness, but a continuous improvement strategy toward the creation of a sustainable and effective organization.”
A field of practice that has its roots in the 1950s, capacity building has as many definitions as there are organizations – both nonprofits and businesses – utilizing it to clarify their missions, and attract participants and funding.
Today in Davos, Switzerland, the World Economic Forum annual meeting opens with an emphasis on a new way to measure the impact of investments, both good and bad.
“Total Societal Impact measures the wider impact of ventures, both positive and negative,” writes Stefan Gross-Selbeck, global managing partner, BCG Digital Ventures, a California corporate investment and incubation firm that invents, builds, scales and invests in startups.
“In practical terms, Total Societal Impact is a collection of measures and assessments – not a single metric. It encompasses six dimensions, which align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): access and inclusion; societal enablement; environmental sustainability; ethical capacity; lifetime well-being; and economic value,” writes Gross-Selback in an article that forms part of the annual meeting’s resource materials.
His point is that businesses are building new capacities to quantify how their activities are impacting the societies in which they operate, and how these new capacities can result in an improved bottom line.
“We estimate there to be $12 trillion-a-year in value ready to be opened up for businesses that innovate across all dimensions of social impact by 2030,” writes Gross-Selback. “This figure is based on the annual revenue and cost savings of business opportunities targeting the SDGs in four areas: food and agriculture; cities; energy materials; and health and well-being.”
“By holding ourselves to account for more than just the bottom line, we can create lasting value and positive change. New, holistic metrics offer the means to quantify impact and optimize for financial, social, and environmental good,” explains Gross-Selback.
Going to School for Capacity Building
People don’t have to go to Davos to embrace capacity building, they can learn the basics in school.
Sweden’s Lund University offers a wide range of capacity building programs to strengthen companies, professional organizations, authorities and individuals.
Over the last 15 years, Lund University has been one of the largest suppliers of International Training Programmes, financed by the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency. These programs were implemented as commissioned training programs and have the overall goal of supporting agencies, organisations and businesses in developing countries in their efforts to reform and contribute to their development to combat poverty in the long term.
Capacity building is valuable and important because of its many long-term impacts, teaches the University of Memphis in a new series of courses called “The Engaged Scholar.”
“Capacity building approaches purposefully minimize an over-reliance on outside experts as sources of knowledge, resources, and solutions to community issues. By preventing a dependency relationship on outsiders from forming, capacity building encourages local people to take action on local issues themselves,” explains the university. A public institution founded in 1912, the university now has an undergraduate enrollment of over 17,200.
“Strengthened confidence, skills, knowledge, and resources that increase from capacity building efforts on one project may enhance a community partner’s ability to envision and take action on other projects,” says the course outline.
“Capacity building fosters a sense of ownership and empowerment, so that community partners gain greater control over their own future development,” teaches this university located in the state of Tennessee in one of America’s great music cities.
“Capacity building efforts are sensitive to the particularities of local culture and context, and, as a result, often lead to more feasible and appropriate community solutions than approaches that lack a capacity building focus,” the university recognizes in the course module “Capacity Building for Sustained Change.”
The University of Memphis explains that, “Capacity building approaches to community work acknowledge that growth, learning, and change occur reciprocally; that is, both you and your community partner are expected to be different at the end of your collaborative community work. Ideally, your community partner will be more effective and successful in addressing community issues, and you will learn about working with community partners more effectively and respectfully.”
Consultants Prepare the Way
Maximpact, a global consultancy that builds the capacity of both the corporate and non-governmental organizations, offers multiple services across 20 business sectors that are available through an easy-to-use platform at Maximpact.
Capacity building with Maximpact provides specialized field, in-person training webinars and vocational training to individuals and organizations on waste, water, agriculture, and development as well as the integration of refugees and migrants into their new homes.
Maximpact’s group of experts have been delivering capacity building and training services to organizations throughout the world including Ethiopia, Jordan, Geneva, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Serbia. This has led Maximpact to develop online webinar training for anyone to attend from anywhere in the world.
Building capacity is about strengthening an organization’s ability to perform well, says Frank Martinelli, president of the Center for Public Skills Training Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he specializes in strategic planning, board development, community partnership and alliance building.
“At the heart of capacity building are resources and activities designed to advance an organization’s ability to deliver programs, as well as adapt, expand and innovate,” says Martinelli.
He outlines four core activities that are essential for building these capacities in nonprofit organizations:
1 – Assessment. Asset-based forms and processes are designed to assist nonprofits in pinpointing their current status and goals for growth. Nonprofits complete the assessment, examine the results, use the results to develop action plan priorities and goals and measure progress.
2 – Action Planning. Using a format that aligns with the assessment, nonprofits then complete action plans that prioritize growth areas and include goals and action steps. The action plans guide the nonprofits’ use of resources to address their individual priorities.
3 – Action Plan Implementation: Resource Linkage and Technical Assistance. Based on the action plan, nonprofits then identify resources, choosing from a range of options.
4 – Evaluation and Learning. Finally, nonprofits reassess their capacity periodically, comparing their new capacity levels to their initial assessment. They monitor, document and report their progress on action planning and capacity development, and engage in learning opportunities.
Martinelli has developed a capacity building toolkit that reflects best practices and lessons learned from his 35 years of work with thousands of nonprofit organizations.
In February, Maximpact will release a Training-of-Trainers online course, which will equip you with necessary skills which will enable you to provide training. To be notified when the course will become available, simply send us a quick email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let us know you wish to be notified.
The Biggest Bank Gets Involved
The World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) has run a capacity building program for forest-dependent indigenous peoples since 2008. The initiative, with a total budget of $11.5 million, has worked to provide forest-dependent indigenous peoples, national civil society organizations, and local communities with information, knowledge and awareness to increase their understanding of efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).
A primary technical requirement of the REDD+ climate change mitigation mechanism, is to calculate emissions factors, that is, the amount of CO2 emissions or removals per hectare from land use and land‐use change. Capacity building offered by the World Bank helps indigenous peoples to accomplish this.
For example, in Panama in 2014, the Emberá and Wounaan Indigenous Youth Organization worked with traditional authorities and communities to quantify the carbon stored in their forests. Training on how to develop forest inventories and participatory mapping of more than 30 individual plots underscored for indigenous communities the importance of tropical forests and REDD+ efforts in mitigating climate change. The results of this work are published in the February 2017 edition of the Ecological Society of America’s journal, “Ecosphere.”
The indigenous technicians, traditional authorities, and project managers took full ownership of the work, which equipped them with technical skills that will be used in other forest inventorying efforts throughout Panama, and also provide a supplementary income stream.
Small Businesses Grow by Building Their Capacity
In addition to banks, venture capitalists and nonprofits, small and medium-sized businesses, too, need capacity building activities to grow.
“Small businesses utilize capacity building strategies so they can increase their long-term viability, management skills, responsiveness to changing market conditions, and overall effectiveness,” writes James George, an entrepreneur and internet marketer based New York City, and founder of Mind My Business NYC, in his online article “A Guide To Capacity Building“.
First, George asserts, it’s important that the capacity building is driven by the demands of the team and their stakeholders. “Once the key decision-makers are involved, capacity building can be approached by connecting relevant individuals and teams with one another,” he writes.
Once the need for building a businesses’ capacity is established, the work involves training existing employees, networking, increasing the organization’s technical capability, and adapting new policies. Business owners can improve the capacity of their employees by providing them with greater access to resources, training programs, consultations, and expert advice, and by coordinating group efforts, George advises.
Leadership development is a critical part of capacity building, since an organization is only as strong as its leaders, George writes. “By working on leadership development along with capacity building, leaders can better serve as advisors to their team and other emerging leaders that need help growing into their new roles.”